Changing Lineup Cards

How many different batting orders do you think the average team uses throughout a season? Go ahead, guess a number in your head right now. I will write out the actual number to hopefully deter your eyes from jumping ahead and fixating on it. Would it surprise you to find out that in 2009, the average number of different lineups used was one hundred and twenty-two?

While discussing the addition of Ryan Garko to the Mariners yesterday, a random comment passed by about manager Don Wakamatsu getting to use a different batting order every day for 2010 with all the platoon options he now has at his disposal. Out of curiosity, I wandered, figuratively, over to Baseball Reference to see how many different orders Wakamatsu used in 2009. I was shocked to find out it was 138. I checked other teams and continued being shocked, so I wrote down the number for every team.

The Cleveland Indians came the closest to that passing joke as manager Eric Wedge used 148 different batting orders throughout the season. Their most frequently used lineup went:

Grady Sizemore
Mark DeRosa
Victor Martinez
Travis Hafner
Jhonny Peralta
Shin-Soo Choo
Ryan Garko
Ben Francisco
Asdrubal Cabrera

Wedge used that order five times in 2009. Arizona ran out the next highest amount of differing order with 144. Most teams are in the low 100s. The standard deviation is 16 from the average of 122. Amazingly, the team with the fewest different batting orders used, Philadelphia, is almost 3.5 standard deviations away from the mean, and a far cry removed from any other team in baseball. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel utilized only 68 different batting orders, 29 fewer than the second fewest Florida.

Also surprising to me is that despite having one fewer player to pencil in (I excluded pitchers from the batting order), the National League averaged almost as much variance as the American League. The NL used an average of 118 different batting orders, the AL 126.

I am not claiming the number of different batting orders used to be meaningful in any way. They’re influenced by roster turnover, health, player effectiveness, the manager’s whim and a couple dozen other factors. However, if you had asked me before I had looked how many different batting orders the average team used throughout a season, I would have guessed around 60. I would have been way off.



Print This Post



Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bryz
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Putting this into perspective….

According to Matthew, the average team sent out a new lineup 3 out of 4 games.

Gold Star for Robot Boy
Guest
Gold Star for Robot Boy
6 years 7 months ago

In the NL, how much would this change if you removed the pitcher’s spot?

Bryz
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Matthew said he did look at the NL with the pitcher’s spot removed.

Dan Greer
Guest
Dan Greer
6 years 7 months ago

I know he hasn’t played there in the majors, but… does anyone think the Mariners’ catching situation is dire enough to consider Ryan Garko there as a 3rd-stringer, a la Jake Fox?

Not David
Guest
Not David
6 years 7 months ago

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/thehotstoneleague/2010953674_garko_its_pretty_obvious_im_he.html

[blockquote]As far as catching, yes, it did come up in his talks with Zduriencik, who envisions Garko as a potential third catcher to give manager Don Wakamatsu more versatility. Garko said he’s coming to spring training prepared to work on his catching skills. It’s a position he’s pretty much dropped the last couple of years after the Indians converted him to first base in 2005.

“I caught all the way to Triple-A, and really would have kept doing it except Victor Martinez signed a five-year deal (with the Indians),” he said. “I felt it (switching positions) was my best path to the big leagues. It’s there. Jack and I talked about it. Just in terms of giving Don the opportunity to make moves in games, it’s important for us to have that third catcher. It just gives us more versatility and I think it can help the team.”

Garko said he hasn’t talked to Wakamatsu yet about his role, “but it’s pretty obvious I’m here to help against left-handed pitching, whether as a first baseman or DH, and be around to catch if the situation comes up. I know I can. I think the right-handed bat, it’s important right now.”[/blockquote]

Not David
Guest
Not David
6 years 7 months ago

Hmmmm….

[quote]test?[/quote]

Not David
Guest
Not David
6 years 7 months ago

How about now….

test

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 7 months ago

Yes, it’s not BBCode, it’s real HTML (a limited subset, obviously — a, i/em, b/strong, blockquote, br, code, probably a couple of others I’m forgetting).

Kevin S.
Member
Kevin S.
6 years 7 months ago

Is the only real difference between the two instead of []?

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 7 months ago

Not exactly: BBCode uses [quote] rather than <blockquote> and [url=”http:\\whatever”] instead of <a href=”http:\\etc”> — that’s most of it (though it gets more involved, since there are optional attributes to these that differ as well), but I’m sure there’s a page somewhere with the equivalences that is just a google away. If you’re using Firefox you can install the BBCode add-on and have it do the tags for you (for either BBCode or HTML, as long as you remember which one to use for whichever site you happen to be on)

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 7 months ago

Oh, I forgot there are a bunch of font formatting (color, size, etc) tags in BBCode that are different or just don’t exist in the same way in HTML/CSS.

More to the point for people posting here, I should probably add that the style sheet Fangraphs uses doesn’t do anything special for anchor tags, so if you link some text in your post, it doesn’t look like a link unless you add your own formatting, by wrapping it in b tags or whatever.

For example, this doesn’t look like a link
On the other hand, this does. Just remember to nest and close your tags correctly!

mmwatkin
Guest
mmwatkin
6 years 7 months ago

It would be a better indicator of lineups to only include teams that were in the realistic playoff hunt and excluded September lineups.

Teams that are out of the running are focused more on promoting newer minor leaguers than winning ballgames. September call-ups cause lineup changes on a daily basis.

PhD Brian
Guest
PhD Brian
6 years 7 months ago

That is certainly more than I would have guessed. Interesting the Phillies had the fewest. I’ll bet the teams that won more often had fewer lineup changes. Well except for teams that platoon more than most like the Rays.

ThundaPC
Guest
ThundaPC
6 years 7 months ago

I actually thought about this a little when Wakamatsu noted that he was going to use at least 120 different lineups last year.

I didn’t really look at it in depth and for some reason I was looking at lineups rather than batting orders but I found it pretty interesting at the time.

Mike Hargrove once joked that he wishes he could run the same lineup card for all 162 games. He ended up using 84 and 99 different lineup cards for the Mariners in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Charlie Manuel has him beat by a mile here. Now that I think about it, I guess that speaks of the stability of the Phillies’ roster (In addition, Charlie used 77 lineup cards in 2008).

MarkE
Guest
MarkE
6 years 7 months ago

It’d be curious to know if there were some historically consistent lineups. I have in my head a relatively fixed 2007 Mariners order that only had about six permutations (obviously this is a huge understatement).

For what it’s worth, the lineup in my head was only used 17 times and b-r counts 99 different batting orders. I’m too short in baseball history to know whether there are any real ‘classic’ lineups (akin to, say, the 1970’s Brazil side in soccer or Liverpool’s mid-1980s XI) in baseball that might have had the least permutations…

bsball
Guest
bsball
6 years 7 months ago

To put into another perspective: if you used the same starting 8 players (i.e. in the NL) for all 162 games there are over 40,000 different line-ups you could come up with. So maybe managers are being fairly restrained.

Mike
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

I’d be interested to see the number for the Red Sox in 06, 07, 08. I feel like the majority of 07 and 08 Francona went with the same line up almost every single day, with some variation with the Ellsbury/Crisp Platoon. I still felt that the line up was very static over the course of those 3 years.

bsball
Guest
bsball
6 years 7 months ago

Mike: you should look at Baseball reference / teams / pick a year / look under others for batting orders.

for Boston it shows:
2006 116
2007 109
2008 131
2009 113

One odd thing I noticed was that the counts with pitchers was only one more than with pitchers, so it may be worth checking that BBRef is counting things right.

Ray Parker Jr.
Guest
Ray Parker Jr.
6 years 7 months ago

Only going with my memories of the mid-80s, it felt like the 1984 Red Sox lineups were rubber stamped game after game. Checking BBRef, it turns out the ’84 Red Sox used only 42 total batting orders.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/BOS/1984-batting-orders.shtml

bsball
Guest
bsball
6 years 7 months ago

I’ve been looking at the Astros 2009 batting orders and found the following fun things.

1. 102 batting orders, excluding pitchers, (compares to NL average of 118), so less than average

2. 51 changes by the ASB (88 games) so they maintained roughly the same pace through the year.

(I stopped looking after the ASB)

3. Of the changes by the ASB 10 were fundamental (i.e. not related to changing personnel for platoons, injuries, rest, etc.). Here are some of those changes:

Pence(7–>2), IRod (2–>7)
Tejada(5–>2), Pence(2–>5)
Bourn(8–>2),tejada(2–>5),pence(5–>6)

10 of this type of change seems high to me because I don’t think most people would have changed their opinion about the batting skills of any of the players involved. Is there any benefit to moving players around through the lineup or is this just managers getting bored?

4. The rest of the changes seemed to be related to personnel changes. These were things like the backup catcher (Quintero or Towles) starting, injury replacements, resting starters. These can compound each other and add up to lots of changes quickly. For example, when Matsui is hurt that creates a new lineup when you replace him (with Keppinger), another when the backup catcher starts, another when another player rests or is injured. If you have a platoon at a position any other change in the lineup effectively counts as 2.

5. There are a few additional lineups created by playing at AL teams and using the DH. It’s possible that the number of lineups would be marginally smaller without inter-league games.

Jimbo
Guest
Jimbo
6 years 7 months ago

I finally realized that pre-season lineup projections should NOT be a deciding factor for player projections. Sure, an average SS will produce more from the 2 hole than the 8 hole…but a good SS will produce in either. Assuming an average player gets AND keeps a favorable spot over an entire season is foolish.

I had no idea they moved around so much though.

John
Guest
John
6 years 7 months ago

Sounds like MGRs justifying there jobs. In some parallel universe an intermediate Fantasy manager has replaced an MLB manager with no negative effect.

Al Dimond
Guest
Al Dimond
6 years 7 months ago

Most of what a manager does is not lineups and strategy. Managers manage. While in some ways a team might do well to hire Joe Random Sabergeek to make strategic decisions, he wouldn’t have credibility with the players to tell them what to do on the field without doing the other parts of the manager’s job. Some teams have people advise managers on strategy, but ultimately the manager has to be the one responsible.

wpDiscuz